And then the guitar says, “What are you looking at, anyways?”

Are you ever aware of where you are focusing your gaze while playing?

Here are the five places you can look while playing:

• your left hand

• your right hand

• whatever is on the music stand

• nowhere in particular… staring into space

• close your eyes

 My experience when observing students play is that they usually watch their hands or they stare into space. Of course, if they are reading music, TAB, neck, or chord diagrams, then they will hopefully keep the focus on the paper. And I suppose if your neck is long enough, and you have decent peripheral vision, you could watch both your hands as you play (and I mean your neck, not the neck of the guitar).

The most interesting out of these possible eye targets is “nowhere in particular.” That’s because staring into space does not necessarily mean that your mind is blank. I’d say that a lot of the times when I’m staring off I am really visualizing the fretboard in my head. I often will ask a student who appears to be looking at nothing as they play to describe what is going on in their heads. I get all sorts of answers. The most intriguing, to me, is  when they say, “nothing”.

Here’s what’s even more interesting… I’ve had students playing & staring into space and, while they’re still playing, I ask them to close their eyes. This will frequently totally throw them off & they somewhat fall apart as they try to play the scale, or chord progression, or whatever they’re dealing with in the moment. So what is the difference between mindless playing & closing your eyes?

As an experiment,the next time your playing…

– Intentionally & deliberately do all the five “eye targets” and see what it’s like for you.

– Catch yourself staring off & then really clarify what was going on in your mind.

 – Play a bit with your eyes open, then close for bit. Go back & forth.

I guess you could say that I’m a cognitive awareness junky. I am always dabbling in meta-cognition, which essentially means, “thinking about thinking.” It has become a significant field of study in modern science and somewhat of a major part of how I approach playing & teaching music. But not as an exclusive approach… I’m still a big fan of working on developing all things right-brained, sub-conscious, metaphysical, spiritual & the like.

Ultimately, that’s what I feel it’s all about… balancing those two sides of the mind.

See what I mean?



Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field